Stonewood directors dig in to create new garden area for homeless charity

Big-hearted construction firm directors gave up their weekend to create a new garden area from a wasteland for a homeless charity.

Senior management from Stonewood Group spent their Saturday helping to turn an unloved dumping ground into an attractive outdoor space for Doorway in Chippenham at its new base in The Citadel in Bath Road.

The Castle Combe company donated all of the labour and materials for the job after getting to know the charity while refurbishing the 119-year-old Citadel at cost before Doorway moved from its old headquarters in Foghamshire last year.

Doorway works with rough sleepers, people in temporary accommodation and those with housing problems. Many of those it helps have mental health issues or drug and alcohol addiction problems and as well as food and emotional support, the charity’s staff provide housing and benefit guidance, practical support and help connect guests to health and advice services.

Director of Doorways, Jo Kitching said the outdoor space will make a huge difference to guests who need time on their own or just want to enjoy some fresh air. “We’ll have some seating so that if anyone needs space to get away from everyone they can relax out there,” she said. “Being outdoors in a comfortable space can be very therapeutic for people who are experiencing a great deal of stress at times.

“We’ll also use it for drying clothes because we do a lot of washing for our guests. It will also be somewhere our groups can do some gardening so it will be lovely to have it and it will add an extra dimension to the place.”

Stonewood’s ground working division Earthstone spent a day clearing the 20 metre long space of concrete, old fence posts, bottles and other rubbish before workers installed a level concrete floor and new fencing.

Chief Executive officer Matt Aitkenhead, Chief operating officer Ben Lang and Directors Jamie Priest, Sam Smart and Mike Hopkins were among those getting their hands dirty.

“When Ben got in touch and offered to do the work we were really pleased,” said Mrs Kitching. “The outdoor area was in a dreadful state and completely unusable so it is wonderful of them to do all of this for us.”

Mr Lang said the group had learned more about Doorway’s work while carrying out the refurbishment on the two-storey building, which included installing a new kitchen, laundry area, shower room and disabled toilet as well as storage areas for food and renovating offices and an upstairs hall.

“Doorway does a wonderful job supporting people in crisis and for a company that focuses on creating homes for people, its ethos of keeping people safe in a home of their own really resonates with us,” he said.

“We just wanted to continue the relationship and support the charity where we can. When we heard about the garden area and what needed to be done we jumped at the chance. It also gave us the opportunity to get back to some hands-on construction as well.”

The work comes at a time when Doorway, which helps around 300 people each year, is busier than ever due to the cost of living crisis. “We are definitely seeing higher demand as more people are in crisis,” said Mr Kitching. “One day last week was the busiest we have ever been.”

Evidence of the increased demand can be seen in the reduced stock in the charity’s donated food store, which is used to give out food parcels as well as provide ingredients for the hot meals it cooks twice a week.

“We are seeing fewer donations because I think people cannot afford to give as much,” she said.

To find out more about Doorway and its work, as well as how to help, go to doorwayproject.org.uk.

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